A while back there was an article going around Facebook titled something like, “Why I Don’t Make My Kid Share.” The author made interesting, funny points like how you wouldn’t go to a coffee shop and turn over your laptop to some random stranger who “wanted a turn”. She talked about teaching her kids boundaries and how to say no. The article had a funny, cool tone typical of the blog it was posted on and the post was shared a quabillion times. And while I laughed at the jokes the author made and snickered in solidarity when she referred to how often moms get interrupted mid-activity, I realized one main thing was missing in her parenting paradigm: Jesus.
While I would love to say that my kids should never have to be interrupted when they are being creative, that they should never be expected to sacrifice something they love for another person, that they shouldn’t have to get less while someone else gets more, the Bible is pretty straight forward on this one: that is EXACTLY what my kids are called to do.
If I desire for my kids to be thriving Believers, bringing glory to God, then a life of giving up what they want for another person is what I’m hoping for them.
I love my children more than life. I longed for each one of them and can not fathom life without them. I am their biggest advocate. I am their biggest fan. But that doesn’t mean that I think they shouldn’t ever experience hurt, discouragement or being let down. One of hardest things we have to do as parents is watch while the Lord molds our kids into the Godly people He desires them to be. We get the AMAZING responsibility of leading them to the cross when they are shown this world is not their home. Part of that is teaching them to give to other people, even when they don’t want to, even when it’s hard.
This doesn’t mean we let other kids mistreat our children in an exercise of martyrdom. We are the protectors of our little people. I have no problem telling a kid at the park to slow down or be careful around my kids. I am the mom that will kindly kick the 14 year old out of the Chik-fil-a playground if he is endangering my age appropriate children that the playground was designed for. But when we are at a playdate and a precocious toddler takes a toy away from Tate The Great I am quick to intervene and tell Tate, “That’s okay, you get to share. Let’s find another toy.” When a cousin broke the Lego monster one of my older kids had created, my son and I sat down, tears in his eyes and talked through how much we loved that baby cousin, how cute he was and how we can always rebuild the Lego (which we did, as a team). When we are playing with friends my kids know this is not the time to be stingy with their toys. We did learn to put away the extra special Lego creations before the cousins visit and I keep Tate the Great’s extra special lovey in his bed when friends are here, but my kids know we have playdates to play with our friend; that means sharing their things.
When it comes to siblings we have a similar rule, but because I am the parent of both the giver and the receiver I have to make sure I am working on hearts from both angles. I will say this: If everyone is looking to give and serve each other, the problem usually resolves itself. No one is going to ask Trace to give up his prize Lego figures or Taylor the Ipad he worked hard and saved money for, because they love each other and generally want their siblings to be happy, (that’s not to say I haven’t had to mediate an argument or two over who’s turn it is to play with the Wii- they are normal kids!). But with the younger guys we have to teach them this character trait. I have to remind Juliet of the times Titus has shared his kindle with her, when he is asking to play on her device. Juliet is a sweet girl, but like my other kids, scripture tell us her heart is wicked. She wants what she wants when she wants it, just like we all do! But just like I have to train myself, I have to train Juliet to let the Holy Spirit override her flesh. This means PRACTICE. I put her in situations where she has to make the choices to put others above herself. Baby brothers and baby cousins are GREAT for this exercise! My older kids have had a lot of practice putting the baby first, (it is easier when they are cute, toothless and cuddly!). They have learned that they won’t die if they don’t get what they want immediately and how to serve others by putting them first. My children are not bionic- they have a sin nature just as strong as the next kid!
They do have more opportunity than the average kid to share in our great, big family. Our hope is to instill in our kids the skill of holding on to the “things” of this world loosely. Legos get lost, even prized blankets get left at hotels by accident, but the relationships my kids are building by serving others, are eternal.
When your kids struggle with letting go of their things to serve others, pray over them, but fight the urge to end the struggle. The Lord is doing a work in them-and while it’s hard to watch in the moment, the end is a work of art to behold.
-From the Trenches